I recently took a look at the biggest plays of the Royals 2015 postseason through the lens of championship probability added (CPA). (The simplest way to explain CPA is the win probability added of each play multiplied the game’s championship leverage. For a more in-depth description, look at #9 in this post by Dave Studeman.) Here now is a look at the biggest swings in CPA out of the 5,582 plate appearances in all 74 Royals postseason games in team history (regardless of whether the play hurt or helped their chances):
10. 1980 World Series Game Five, ahead 3-2
top of the 9th, no outs, runner on first
Del Unser facing Dan Quisenberry
championship probability added: -15%
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Royals were in good shape in Game Five heading into the ninth with a 3-2 lead. Dan Quisenberry had already recorded five outs in the game before Mike Schmidt led off the ninth with a rocket ground ball to third base that George Brett barely got a glove on, but the ball ricocheted away and Schmidt was on first with a single. Del Unser followed with the above play to tie the score. Manny Trillo drove Unser home later in the same frame (-12% CPA, the 15th biggest CPA play in team history). The Royals never held a lead in the Series again.
9. 2015 World Series Game One, down 3-4
bottom of the 9th, one out, nobody on
Alex Gordon facing Jeurys Familia
championship probability added: 15%
Think of some of the Royals greats who never got to experience the playoffs with Kansas City: Kevin Appier, Zack Greinke, Carlos Beltran, Jeff Montgomery, Mike Sweeney. It looked for a long time like Alex would be added to that list. 2014 took care of that, and then 2015 really took care of it, highlighted by this signature moment.
8. 2014 World Series Game Seven, behind 2-3
bottom of the 9th, two outs, runner on third
Salvador Perez facing Madison Bumgarner
I don’t really want to find a video of this one.
championship probability added: -16%
Among the top 17 CPA plays in team history, this is the only one in which a run did not score.
7. 1976 ALCS game five, down 3-6
top of the 8th, no outs, runners on first and second
George Brett facing Grant Jackson
championship probability added: 17%
This is before my time, so I can only imagine the bliss of this home run at the time, followed by the pain of number four on this list.
6. 1985 World Series Game Seven, tied 0-0
bottom of the 2nd, one out, runner on first
Darryl Motley facing John Tudor
championship probability added: 18%
And the rout was on.
5. 1977 ALCS game five, ahead 3-2
top of the 9th, no outs, runners on first and second
Mickey Rivers facing Larry Gura
championship probability added: -19%
Dick Howser coaching third for the Yankees. The old-timers aren’t kidding when they talk about how heartbreaking the ’76, ’77, and ’78 ALCS losses were.
4. 1976 ALCS game five, tied 6-6
bottom of the ninth, no outs, nobody on
Chris Chambliss facing Mark Littell
championship probability added: -19%
After George’s dramatic homer to tie the game in the eighth, Chris Chambliss brought the pain in the ninth.
3. 1980 World Series Game Three, tied 3-3
bottom of the 10th, two outs, runners on first and second
Willie Aikens facing Tug McGraw
championship probability added: 20%
After dropping the first two games of the series, the Royals desperately needed to win Game Three. Luckily for them, Willie Aikens got the chance to do just that. Aikens had one of the greatest win probability added World Series of all time, and is the team leader in playoff CPA (see leader board below). This was the first win of the franchise’s first World Series, in Willie Aikens walk-off style.
2. 1985 World Series Game Two, ahead 2-1
top of the 9th, two outs, bases loaded
Terry Pendleton facing Charlie Leibrandt
championship probability added: -22%
Leibrandt was masterful for eight shutout innings before things fell apart in the ninth. Manager Dick Howser stood pat as the Cardinals cut the Royals lead to one run, and Leibrandt had runners on second and third with two outs. There was plenty of second-guessing about not lifting Leibrandt, but I think there was probably plenty of first-guessing at the time too. Howser later said, “Charlie had pitched out of similar jams many times this season.” It was a tough spot either way. Leibrandt intentionally walked Cesar Cedeno to pitch to Pendelton with the bases loaded. You can watch above to see how that didn’t work out so well. The loss put them in an 0-2 hole in the series, but that just set up the dramatic comeback, including the most dramatic play in team history.
1. 1985 World Series Game Six, behind 0-1
top of the 9th, one out, bases loaded
Dane Iorg facing Todd Worrell
championship probability added: 23%
The Denkinger call comes in at 6.5% CPA, tied for the seventh most impactful play of the ’85 World Series.
I’d say CPA does a great job recognizing dramatic, heartbreaking, and thrilling moments in team history. It does discount the earlier playoff rounds, so the craziness of the 2014 wild card game and 2015 ALDS don’t rank as high.
Finally, here are the all-time CPA leaders and trailers in Royals playoff history:
|1. Willie Aikens||55%|
|2. Wade Davis||50%|
|3. Alex Gordon||47%|
|4. George Brett||36%|
|5. Kelvin Herrera||29%|
|6. Eric Hosmer||25%|
|7. Amos Otis||25%|
|8. Bret Saberhagen||25%|
|8. Dane Iorg||25%|
|10. Greg Holland||18%|
|11. Ben Zobrist||14%|
|12. Danny Jackson||13%|
|13. Paul Splittorff||13%|
|14. Darryl Motley||12%|
|15. Luke Hochevar||11%|
|16. Chris Young||10%|
|17. Steve Mingori||9%|
|18. Buck Martinez||8%|
|18. Marty Pattin||8%|
|20. Steve Balboni||8%|
|77. Darrell Porter||-9%|
|78. Charlie Leibrandt||-10%|
|79. Jarrod Dyson||-11%|
|80. Hal McRae||-11%|
|81. John Wathan||-12%|
|82. Rich Gale||-12%|
|83. Willie Wilson||-12%|
|84. Andy Hassler||-13%|
|85. Jeremy Guthrie||-13%|
|86. Yordano Ventura||-14%|
|87. Jose Cardenal||-14%|
|88. James Shields||-15%|
|89. Dan Quisenberry||-17%|
|90. Doug Bird||-18%|
|90. Nori Aoki||-18%|
|92. Mark Littell||-23%|
|93. Larry Gura||-29%|
|94. Dennis Leonard||-29%|
|95. Salvador Perez||-35%|
|96. Frank White||-50%|